The British Supreme Court has ruled that doctors and families can revoke a patient’s life support and withhold food and water without his or her consent and without a court hearing.
The decision is particularly concerning — because it comes from a nation that is already pushing towards euthanasia. In the UK, with its government-run health care system, doctors and hospitals are routinely giving up on patients they believe are too far gone, even children such as Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans. In such instances they are pressuring families to allow life support to be revoked from patients they believe have no chance at life — even though other doctors and medical professionals disagree.
The ruling from the high court in Britain also comes after new reports that hundreds of patients are being euthanized in Belgium including three children. Leading pro-life organizations will likely see this ruling us another step towards euthanasia and pressuring patients to end their lives in assisted suicide.
The ruling essentially allows doctors and families to guess what a patient might ant if no advance directive is in place — allowing patients to have their life support and food and fluids terminated and their lives taken even if that may not be the decision they would have wanted.
End-of-life care can be withdrawn from patients in a permanent vegetative state without consulting a judge, the UK’s highest court ruled today. The Supreme Court upheld a decision that a man with an extensive brain injury, who can be identified only as Mr Y, should be allowed to die without his family going before a judge.
The ruling means that, in cases where families and doctors are in agreement, medical staff will be able to remove feeding tubes without applying to the Court of Protection.
The Supreme Court ruled on the case of a 52-year-old financial analyst, was from June 2017, was in a prolonged disorder of consciousness (PDOC) after suffering a cardiac arrest as a result of coronary artery disease.
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PDOC covers patients remaining in a coma, vegetative state and minimally conscious state after a brain injury.
Experts agreed it was highly improbable that Mr Y would re-emerge into consciousness and – even if he did – he would have profound cognitive and physical disability and always be dependent on others.
Mr Y had not drawn up any advance decision to refuse treatment but his family were firmly of the view that he would not want to be kept alive given the poor prognosis.
The anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing has expressed “concern” and “disappointment” that the Supreme Court has removed an important safeguard from brain-damaged patients today.
The group informed LifeNews:
It complains that judges have ruled that doctors should be able to withdraw food and fluids without going to Court. The ruling will effect up to 24,000 patients with permanent vegetative state (PVS) and minimally conscious state (MCS), meaning they can now be effectively starved and dehydrated to death if the medical staff and relatives agree that this is in their ‘best interests’.
People with PVS (awake but not aware) and MCS (awake but only intermittently or partially aware) can breathe without ventilators, but need to have food and fluids by tube (clinically assisted nutrition and hydration or CANH).
These patients are not imminently dying and with good care can live for many years. Some may even regain awareness. But if CANH is withdrawn, then they will die from dehydration and starvation within two or three weeks.
Until last year all cases of PVS and MCS have had to go to the Court of Protection before CANH could be withdrawn.
Dr. Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, commented: “This is concerning and disappointing news, because it removes an important safeguard from those without a voice.
“The Court of Protection did not prevent clinically assisted nutrition and hydration or CANHbeing removed, indeed under the old rules, introduced after the Tony Bland case in 1993 there have been over 100 such cases, but it did ensure independent scrutiny of any application. It did this because it recognised the emotional and financial pressure that families and clinicians can fell under.”
Saunders continued: “In making these declarations Lady Black and the Supreme Court has dramatically moved the goalposts on end of life decision-making. Once we accept that death by dehydration is in some brain-damaged people’s ‘best interests’ we are on a very slippery slope indeed.
“There is a clear difference between turning off a ventilator on a brain-dead patient and removing CANH from a brain-damaged patient. PVS and MCS differ from conditions with a ‘downward trajectory’ because they are not progressive and do not in themselves lead inevitably to death.
“The Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent. Taking these decisions away from the Court of Protection removes an important layer of legislative scrutiny and accountability and effectively weakens the law.
“It will make it more likely that severely brain-damaged patients will be starved or dehydrated to death in their supposed ‘best interests’ and that these decisions will be more influenced by those who have ideological or financial vested interests in this course of action.”
He concluded: “Given that it costs about £100,000 per year to care for a person with PVS or MCS the potential ‘saving’ for the NHS could be as much as £2.4 billion annually if most seek to go down this route. Given the huge and growing financial pressure the health service is under is this really an additional pressure, no matter how subtle we want to put medical staff and administrators under.
“Coupled with this are the real, demonstrable and significant uncertainties about diagnosis and prognosis in both PVS and MCS. These have increased rather than decreased in the last 20 years and this is why continued court oversight is necessary.”
Meanwhile. in Belgium, new data shows that the number of euthanasia deaths continues to increase, euthanasia deaths for conditions related to aging have skyrocketed and three children died by euthanasia.
In 2016 there were 2028 reported euthanasia deaths up from 2021 in 2015 and in 2017 there were 2309 reported euthanasia deaths, a 14% increase from the previous year. There were 954 reported Belgian euthanasia deaths in 2010 representing a 242% increase in 7 years.
Since 2010, Belgium has expanded euthanasia to include children, people with mental or behavioral conditions and people who are not dying but have chronic conditions. The data indicates that in 2016/17 there were, reportedly, 3 children who died by euthanasia, 77 people with mental or behavior conditions and 710 people with sight loss or incontinence or conditions related to disability or age.